Review: 2020 Norco Optic C2
A short travel trail bike with big ideas
Norco has redesigned its popular Optic. The new frame is an interesting beast. It has only 125 mm of rear wheel travel, matched with a RockShox Super Deluxe Ultimate DH shock and slack geometry led by a 65-degree head-tube angle. While unconventional, the mix works. The latest vision for the Optic is a wildly fun ride, very capable and inspiring on a wide variety of trails.
The short-travel trail bike falls into a broad category that includes bikes with very different purposes. The previous generation of Optic looked more like a traditional cross country bike, prioritizing climbing while making some concessions to improve descending abilities. Others, such as Giant’s Trance 29 or bikes from Kona, Transition and Evil, have flipped that script to focus on descending. With the 2020 Optic C2, Norco aims to maximize fun on the downs, while giving up as little climbing prowess as possible.
Norco signals its change in intentions for the redesigned Optic by spec’ing the high-end Super Deluxe Ultimate DH shock across the entire line. The Canadian brand has put the time in developing the Optic’s geometry and suspension to build a bike that can ride very confidently on rowdy trails and can bring flow trails to life. Norco knows that the proper suspension is crucial to getting the most out of the design, which is why the Optic C2 comes with a shock normally found on bikes twice the price.
As the DH shock and the 140-mm Pike Select Plus fork suggest, the Optic is happiest when you are pushing hard. Once you get into the bike’s travel, it positively comes alive. On flow trails and berms where a longer-travel bike can feel vague or flat, the Optic is playful and poppy. Start hitting bigger trail features, and the Optic remains impressively composed.
At factory-recommended settings, following Norco’s Ride Aligned fit system, the big-hit capability comes at the cost of being slightly less sensitive to small bumps. Taking 5–10 p.s.i. off the recommended pressure for rides on the more cross country side helped. While not a perfect fix, it’s an easy adjustment to make a bike go from smile-inducing trail shredder that happily takes on whatever steep lines and big hits you throw at it to fast pedalling XC/trail bike.
While the Optic clearly sets its sights on maximizing fun on the descents, it’s also a capable climber. It makes for a stable pedalling platform with the efficiency for more runs or bigger, far ranging rides. There’s no lock-out switch on that DH shock, but the Optic pedals well enough so you won’t miss the feature.
To hit the Optic C2’s competitive price point without giving up suspension performance, Norco uses a SRAM GX Eagle drivetrain, Stan’s NoTubes Flow S1 rims and DT Swiss 350 hubs. Shimano BR-MT520 brakes with 180-mm-diameter rotors provide ample and consistent stopping power on sustained steeps. It’s a solid mix of parts that perform consistently while keeping the Optic within a budget.
All in, Norco has put together an exciting bike with the Optic C2. The short-travel trail bike’s playful character will make any route more fun, while its suspension design and shock let you confidently steer into big features and steep runs.
Norco Optic C2
SRAM GX Eagle 12-speed, X1 Eagle Dub carbon- fibre crankset, X-Fusion Manic seatpost, Shimano 4-piston BR-MT520 brakes, 180-mm diameter rotors, front/rear
RockShox Pike Select Plus fork, 140 mm travel, RockShox Super Deluxe Ultimate DH shock,
125 mm travel
Stan’s NoTubes Flow S1 29″, DT Swiss 350 hubs
S, M, L, XL